The Future of the Mac, or, What The Hell Just Happened?

Earlier today (okay, it’s now after midnight, so technically, yesterday), Apple held its annual Fall product release, billed to tech journalists as Hello Again. Those two simple words hinted that this event was to be about the Mac, and not just the Mac, but to many of us—the Future of the Mac.

The event started with an incredibly heart-warming video about the accessibility users can find in the Apple Watch, iOS devices, and on the Mac. The story is told through the screen of a videographer, and we discover toward the end that the person working on the project (Sady) is disabled and making use of the accessibility features built into Final Cut Pro and macOS. It’s a great video, if you haven’t seen it, you can catch it on YouTube.

I have a lot of respect for the Accessibility team at Apple. They work incredibly hard, and have dedicated their careers to ensuring that the things Apple produces—hardware and software—are usable by everyone, regardless of their abilities. But sadly, beyond Tim Cook’s comments that followed the video, that’s all we heard about accessibility on the Mac today. And what did we get instead, a “Touch Bar” that no doubt will be accessible via APIs that Apple released today to developers, but that was never mentioned.

Let me say that again: Apple led with a video about accessibility, and then proceeded to introduce a Touch Bar for the new MacBook Pro. Am I the only one that sees the irony here?

After Tim Cook’s welcoming remarks, he meandered down a path that was very un-Mac. He talked about iOS 10, its adoption rate, its adoption rate vs Android, the iPhone 7 Plus and its awesome camera, and showed pictures—lots of pictures—that iPhone users sent to Apple just so he could show them to us during a supposed Mac event.

Next up…not a Mac. Instead, Apple TV. Twitter on Apple TV, and more blah-blah about Apple TV.

This is a Mac event, right?

Finally, we get to the new MacBook Pro models with its newest feature—which we all know about thanks to the Internet, yo—the Touch Bar. To me, this feels gimmicky at best; a short-lived feature for the MacBook Pro line that (IMO) will live an embarrassingly short existence. And to make all of us long-time Mac users feel nostalgic, the Touch Bar gets an updated version of the Control Strip.

We got to listen to Phil Schiller tell us how outdated function keys are, so here’s a touchy-thing to replace that row of buttons that you don’t use. (Except, I use them every day. Thanks, Phil.) We got a demo from Craig Federighi. Another demo, and another demo, and another demo, and then the big reveal: The hardware specs, pricing, and availability that we’ve all been waiting to hear.


But as a long-time Mac user, there was honestly nothing about the new MacBook Pro models that made me want to upgrade my aging 2012 model for the new hotness. Internally, the MacBook Pros are a work of art, they really are meticulously designed, but on a spec level, what Apple presented today was an embarrassment. The top of the line MacBook Pro is limited to 16 GB of RAM? Seriously?!

Just who is Apple designing this new line of MacBook Pros for, my retired mother who plays Bingo on the web? No, seriously. These are Pro models, right? Laptops that developers use. Laptops that designers use. And, apparently, laptops that Final Cut Pro users use.

16 gigabytes of RAM. That’s what you get, and there’s no way to upgrade that, monkey-boy.

The new MacBook Pros only have Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. The last time I checked, the Lightning cables that come with the new iPhones and iPads are all standard USB, which means if you buy the new laptop, you’ll also need to drop another $25 for the USB-C to Lightning cable. No biggie, right? Now multiply that by every iOS device you currently use and might want to sync with your laptop.

The event wrapped up just like all other Apple events in recent years, with a video voiced by Sir Jony Ive espousing the virtues of the latest, greatest Apple thing.

And that was it.

Today’s Apple “event” lacked something that is typically central to these events: a theme. In the past, Apple’s product announcements were precision-tuned; this one felt thrown together. It lacked substance, and it kind of lacked purpose.

What it did show, however, is more of Apple’s hubris. “Here’s your new laptop, now leave us alone for another four years while we go back to work on iPhones and iPads, m’kay.” That’s what it felt like being a long-time Mac user today.

What we did not hear about today was anything related to Apple’s flagship consumer desktop, the iMac. Nor did we hear anything about the Mac Pro. Oh, and if you were hoping to learn about a new Apple-branded external display, think again. Instead, Apple made it very clear that if you want an external display for your new shiny MacBook Pro, you’ll have to go with an LG display. Uh, sure, yeah, Apple “partnered” with LG to get a display that supports Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), but those are the only ports you’ll find on that display. No HDMI, no Ethernet in, no standard USB ports for external keyboards, etc.

If I’m going to drop $1500 on a display (that’s the cost of the 27-inch 5K display mentioned in the presentation), that display had damned well earn its place on my desk.

As a long-time Mac user, today’s event left me with more questions than answers about the Mac’s future. And what’s more telling is just how out of touch Apple is with their own user-base, at least when it comes to desktops and laptops.